There was a little speculation along press row ("Is he going to stay?" ... "Is he going to stick it out?") during the Capital Hoops Classic, so it is not out of left field. It is the second coach in one of the marquee sports to leave Ottawa in less than 12 months, as well.
Piché, who has always been a great quote in the three seasons I have periodically covered Gee-Gees football, is emphasizing the "landscape" has changed in CIS football, to the point where the demands of the job are too taxing, especially for a father with a young family (he and spouse Sonia Sassemille's two daughters are aged 9 and 6).
The take-home is Ottawa likely will have an interim coach this fall and announce a permanent coach after the season. Most candidates from the CFL pool are already committed for this season.
A couple quotes from the interview, plus a few from Team 1200's chats with Piché and Ottawa AD Luc Gélineau:
- On the workload: "To make things work here, a coach has to accumulate 3,500 hours a year. The landscape in CIS football has changed dramatically in the past 6-7 years. You put in the 3,500 hours, you competition is just crazy. it just never ends. You go on vacation, you have to negotiate with the family, 10 minutes on the BlackBerry in the morning, 10 minutes on the BlackBerry in the evening. There's only one way to do this and it’s to do this to win."
- "During the season, it is 14- and 16-hour days ... Then you’re on the road recruiting for nine days straight, going to combines, making home visits. You start at 8:30, go to bed at 11, do it over again, all that time, you call home, and wish everyone good night."
On the transition (from The Team): "There's no way there's going to be an overhauling of the program. We're not ready to say exactly how it (the job search) is going to shape up, but we're close to having it figured out. No one is coming from the external. We want to stress to the kids that the program is still going to be their program. No one is going to be figuring out who the Gee-Gees are when we open the season vs. Western on Labour Day. It's still going to be a fast team, an athletic team."
On future opportunities (from The Team): "I have another exciting adventure to go to that I can't really talk about now. I'm definitely not going to be on a football field, other than to congratulate our fellow Gee-Gees players and coaches for winning a lot of football games."
On future opportunities in football: "I've been on a football field since I was eight, nine years old. It was strange to talk to the kids at the speed practice this morning. They handled it very well and understood the situation. Sometimes you just to have to bear down and do what your heart tells you ... I have no clue if I’ll coach again. I’ll be embarking on a new adventure."
Any regrets: "There's no doubt I would have liked to have taken these kids to a national championship. The landscape has changed so much, there's so much that goes into being a national contender. To take it to the next level, to be a national champion, it's so much more than just having players ... Maybe I’ll feel like I ran out of time at the University of Ottawa. If that’s considered a regret, that’s my only regret. We have so many young men who come here, develop, and become an asset to our society. That's something we're very proud of."
- On his coach's contribution: "Denis is leaving us with a strong foundation. My challenge is to find someone who can take Denis' legacy and keep adding to it. Denis was able to stabilize a couple important areas for us. Recruiting a student-athlete is more difficult, succeeding academically is more difficult. He's given us pillars in those areas."
- On the transition: "We have a foundation and within that foundation, there is an excellent core of student-athletes and a great coaching staff. We will establish the leadership of the program within the current coaching staff, then we will launch a national search. Short-term, it's existing coaching staff. We will launch a coaching search and hopefully as soon as the season's over, December, we will have an announcement."
- On having an interim coach: "The reality in the CFL is once you've passed the first week of February, everyone has made commitments, signed contracts. I believe we will have excellent coaches from the CFL applying for the job, so we want to give them a chance."
Piche quits Gee-Gees (Ottawa Sun)